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May 20, 2019

Are the rapid changes real? And do they last?

In the Spring of 2017, we published our first live TEAM therapy session so our listeners could peak behind closed doors to see an actual TEAM therapy session. Although the session lasted about two hours, we broke it up into seven consecutive podcasts including expert commentary on each segment of the session.

If you have not yet heard them, they were Feeling Good Podcast #29, published on April 10, 2017 through Podcast #35, on May 1, 2017 which was exactly two years from the time today’s podcast was recorded.

My co-therapist for this session was Dr. Jill Levitt, the Director of Clinical Training at the Feeling Good Institute in Mt. View, California. Our patient was a physician named Mark who’d had two goals for his life when he was growing up. The first goal was to become an outstanding doctor. The second goal was to have a large and loving family.

At the start of the session, Mark confessed that although he’d achieved his first goal, he’d failed to achieve his second goal because he wasn’t able to get close to his sons, especially his oldest son. At the start of the session he rated his relationship with his son on the Relationship Satisfaction Scale as only 2 out of 30, an extraordinarily low score. In addition, his scores on the Daily Mood Log indicated he felt very sad, unhappy, guilty, and ashamed. He also felt very inadequate, lonely, self-conscious, discouraged and defeated, frustrated, and somewhat resentful and upset, too. He confessed that he’d felt this way for years.

By the end of the session, these feelings had largely disappeared, and Mark was in a state of joy. In fact, we all felt elated—but will it last?

Many people complain that the rapid and dramatic change I experienced when I do TEAM therapy cannot be real, and cannot last, and that it has to be superficial or fake. They insist that real change can only unfold slowly, over years, or even after a decade or more of talk therapy. I respect critical thinking, and if you’d told me that such rapid and dramatic changes were possible ten years ago, before TEAM had emerged with all the new technology, I would have thought you were a con artist too!

Of course, others have argued the other side of the coin, pointing out that TEAM is research-based and genuinely appears to represent a significant, or even amazing breakthrough in psychotherapy for depression and anxiety, and that the changes ARE real. They have also argued that rapid change should be the goal of treatment, rather than just nursing people along for prolonged periods of time without tangible and measurable changes.

Rhonda and I had the wonderful opportunity of sitting down to interview Mark this last Sunday, following one of my Sunday hikes, so we could try to get some answers to these questions. We asked Mark whether he now felt that the changes were real, and how he’d been doing in the two years since the session. Did the changes last?

The interview with Mark was pretty mind-blowing. He confessed that at the start of the session he, too, was very skeptical that years and years of negative feelings could be reversed in a single therapy session. Then he summarized the session he’d had with Dr. Levitt and me in May of 2017, and his tears flowed once again, as he recalled his feelings of failure at being unable to connect with his sons.

Rhonda asked Mark what happened after the session. Did he just relapse back into the same way he’d been feeling?

Mark said that right after his session, there was an amazing and almost instantaneous transformation of his relationships with all of his sons. He used the Five Secrets of Effective Communication for the first time in his interactions with his sons, and they opened up immediately. He has felt extremely happy, over joyed, really, and reported that:

  1. The changes were VERY real!
  2. The changes DID last.
  3. His relationships with his children and grandchildren are now fantastic.

Rhonda and I are incredibly indebted to Mark for giving us such a transformative and inspiring interview! It probably won’t quiet all of the critics, but this information may be illuminating and inspiring for those who are intrigued by the many new developments in TEAM-CBT.

And my message to those who are still critical of TEAM, or critical of me—please continue to use your critical thinking and skepticism when you evaluate TEAM or any other approach. It was my own skepticism about the things I learned during my residency training and clinical work that actually led to the emergence of TEAM therapy. I don’t want to quiet my critics, I want to praise all of you!

David and Rhonda

Coming Up Soon

Follow-Up with Gary: Rhonda and David interview Gary, a veteran who David treated for PTSD several years ago at a trauma workshop. Gary describes how a repressed horrific memory from his childhood suddenly and forcefully re-emerged when he smelled some Queen Anne’s Lace that were in blossom, and what he experienced during his TEAM-CBT session with David.

Can severe PTSD be treated in a single therapy session? You’ll find out when you listen to this amazing and emotional interview with Gary!